Saving for a summer vacation can be difficult when money is tight. Many Canadians admit that they cannot afford it, and many leave vacation days unused. Going on vacation on a tight budget requires careful planning and smart choices to save money and enjoy time off. Here are some simple things to do to cut expenses and keep spending under control.
What Expenses Can You Trim?
Expenses fall in two categories – essential and non-essential. The category of non-essential expenses includes rented appliances, lottery, hairdressing, alcohol, and cigarettes. Essential expenses include things like baby items, car insurance, and property taxes. Non-essential costs are expenses that you can trim, whether dry cleaning, taxis, or pet insurance.
To save money for your summer vacation, you may need to cut down on expenses such as magazine and newspaper subscriptions, club memberships, dining out, and entertainment. Other leisure expenses that may ruin your budget include sports activity and leisure supplies, fine dining events, movie streaming subscriptions, and season passes and tickets.
Some habits are not only unhealthy but can be a real drain on your budget, be it drinking or smoking. Quitting smoking will help you to save a lot of money and get in good shape. There are other ways to save money such as shopping at farmers markets and discount grocery stores, using coupons, and collecting credit card rewards points to redeem for flights, room upgrades, etc.
Create a Spending Plan
The next step is to create a spending plan by looking at your disposable income and expenses. This is also a way to find out whether you need to cut down on expenses to stay on budget and to identify your priorities. The easiest way to create a spending plan is to list all of your monthly expenses, including childcare, grocery shopping, loan and credit card payments, mortgage or rent, and health and auto insurance. Other expenses to list include your phone, electricity, and water bills, car payments, subscriptions, and household maintenance. Make a list of your sources of income to find out what your gross income is. Sources of income include your salary, wages, and bonuses, investment and interest income, and alimony and child support. Once you know how much you earn and spend, you will be able to figure out how much you can save for your summer vacation.
It is also a good idea to divide your expenses into irregular and fixed expenses. The latter include debt payments, bank fees, utility bills, and rent. These are expenses that will not change on a monthly basis and are easy to budget for. The category of irregular expenses includes vehicle maintenance and insurance, health expenses, pest control, school supplies, and weddings and birthdays. In general, irregular expenses come up once or twice a year, and it is important to budget properly and save enough to meet them when they come up. There are also variable expenses such as recreation and sports, work lunches, personal care items, and groceries. This is the category to look into and identify expenses that you can cut back on to save for your holiday.
Go on a “Staycation”
Going on staycation is a cheap option when money is tight. Staying home, relaxing, spending time together, and going on day trips is one way to get a break and save money. What you can do is visit local water and amusement parks, visit science or history museums, and join free events, fairs, and festivals. There are plenty of sports and other outdoor recreational activities to try, be it canoeing, kayaking, tennis, or handball. Another idea is to sign up for a class or course to master some new skill. Depending on where you live, you can take a creative writing course, yoga class, or cooking class. This is also a good time to try a new hobby such as woodworking, sewing, candle making, or ice skating.
Going camping is also a way to spend time together and escape from your daily routine. Just pick a campsite and pack essentials such as utensils and cookware, navigational tools, personal items, sleeping bag, tent, folding chairs, and other camp essentials. Don’t forget to bring entertainment items to maximize fun and spend quality time together. Pack things such as kayaking or biking gear, playing cards, board games, camera, and binoculars.
When choosing a camping site, there are two options to look into – free and private. If your budget is tight, you are probably looking for a public campground where you don’t have to pay a fee. On the downside, public campgrounds may lack cooking facilities, bathrooms, and hookups. If you are more of an adventurous type, however, you may actually enjoy it. Look for areas that are designated as Crown Land. Remember that you are allowed to stay up to 21 days at the site that you choose, and then you have to move your camping equipment and gear at least 100 meters away from where you stayed.
There are plenty of camping sites in Canada’s national parks but you will have to pay a fee. These include the Berg Lake Campground in the Mount Robson Provincial Park, Main Campground in the Alice Lake Provincial Park, and Point Campground in the Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. Recreational activities abound, from fishing, hiking, and bicycling to swimming and canoeing.
Rent a Cottage for the Weekend
Renting a cottage is also a good idea when money is tight. One option is to rent off-season and not in peak months such as August and July. Many people rent via popular platforms such as CanadaStays and Airbnb, but it pays to contact owners directly and inquire about prices and availability. A third idea is to join a mailing list and check for special offers. Many rental agencies feature such lists and offer good deals on new properties, and it always pays to check for last minute deals.
Staying at new resorts and hotels is another way to save money when going on vacation. Look for newly renovated and constructed resorts and hotels that offer deals to attract customers.
Budgeting for Vacation Expenses
There are other things to do before going on vacation, including budgeting for costs such as public transportation, rental car fees, gas, and train and airfare tickets. Some travel expenses are easy to miss when planning a vacation, for example, vaccinations, foreign transaction fees, emergency expenses, and mobile phone charges. If you already have attractions on your must-see list, you may want to budget for tickets and passes for concerts, museums, and attractions. How much it will cost you to go on vacation also depends on the destination, whether you are staying at a hotel or campsite, whether you are eating out or packing your own food, and other factors. Other travel expenses to include in your budget are exchange rates, travel insurance, visa costs, baggage fees, and onboard food and beverage purchases.
If you are unsure how much it will cost you, you may use a vacation calculator to create a travel budget. You just need to enter details such as number of children and adults, number of travel days and lodging, number of fun days, and amount of money saved for the trip. You also need to enter details such as number of miles, cost per gallon, and your car’s miles per gallon rating. If you are travelling abroad, you can use a calculator that displays travel costs at your destination of choice.
Going on vacation on a tight budget may look like a challenge but there are plenty of ways to save money to get the most out of your journey. Creating a spending plan and cutting down on expenses will help you to set money aside and see how much you can save to go on vacation. If money is tight, a staycation, long weekend in a cottage, or going camping are ways to spend quality time and enjoy life. Going on vacation is a good way to take a break from daily routine, stress, and work and family responsibilities. A summer vacation not only helps prevent burnout but also helps connect with your inner self. It is also something to look forward to, offering ample opportunities to meet new people, make new friends, and just have fun, relax, travel, explore new places, and try new things. Whether you are going on vacation or taking a city break, spending time away from home will boost your energy so that you return to the office refueled and with a smile.